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January 15th, 2004
Looking for Some New Year’s Resolutions?
After another tough year in the advertising industry, with declining profits and fierce competition, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant about protecting yourself from legal problems. As we begin 2004, you just can’t afford to make needless mistakes that could end up costing big dollars. What are some simple steps that you can take to help reduce your legal risks? If you’re looking for some new year’s resolutions for your company for 2004, here are some suggestions.
Read your production contracts
All production contracts are not created equal. For each job, make sure that you actually read and understand the entire contract. The front and the back of the contract should accurately reflect the deal between the agency and the production company. All too often, when something goes wrong, people are surprised about what the language of the contract actually says.
Review your releases
Are you using a version of a location release that someone gave you in 1986? The releases that you use are critically important. They should give you the rights and protection you need when you use locations, props, music, talent, and other third-party materials in your commercials. If there’s ever a question later on about whether you had permission, you better have the appropriate language in your release. For example, does your location release only give you the right to film on the property, or does it also give you the right to use the company’s trademarks that appear on the property? Don’t go another year relying on versions of hand-me-down documents that may not suit your needs. Releases aren’t always necessary, however, so it’s also important to learn when you don’t need them. Spend some time with your lawyer this winter and make sure that you’ve got the right releases and that you know when to use them.
Watch out for original music
One of the most difficult aspects of the production process is giving clients the music that they want at a price that they can afford. If the client wants, but doesn’t have the budget for, a particular song, you may need to go in a completely different direction. Regardless of whether you’re an agency or a production company, you’re only asking for trouble if you try to deliver music that sounds like something or someone else. If you want music in a certain style, ask your composer for that, and describe generally what you want, but stay away from referring to particular songs or artists. If you do, you’ve greatly increased the risk that you’ll be in a music lawsuit before you know it.
Check your insurance
Do you have the right insurance? Do you have enough insurance? Check to make sure that you have the insurance coverage that you need. Even after all of your efforts to avoid problems, if the worst happens, you want to know that you’re covered. If you require others you work with to obtain insurance as well, make sure you get certificates of insurance from them, to help avoid any confusion later on about what coverage they actually have.
If you’ve got a legal problem that you’re worried about, talk to your lawyer, before it’s too late.
This article first appeared in the January 2004 issue of SHOOT magazine. It presents a general discussion of legal issues, but is not legal advice, and may not be applicable in all situations. Consult your attorney for legal advice.
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